Player Diary: Israel Idonije

Bourbonnais - One of the surprises of the first preseason game was the emergence of defensive line prospect Israel Idonije. ‘Izzie' talks to Bear Report readers about his recent experiences from NFL Europe and competing for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Israel Idonije had two of the team's three sacks and plans on using that success as a springboard to make the team.

I have to tell you that I am really happy after this first game. It was exactly what I had hoped it would be. As defensive player, you want to get to the quarterback. I was able to penetrate the pocket and get good things done. It was a thrill and something that I'll be able to build on from here through the rest of the season.

I'm a Canadian by birth. I was born in Manitoba and saw American football from the Canadian point of view. I always loved the game but never really imagined that I would have the chance to play here in the United States.

In college, I played for the Manitoba Bisons and was invited to play in the 2003 East-West Shrine Bowl in San Francisco. It was a great opportunity to meet other players and coaches and to get a feeling of what this type of football would be like.

I entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and I signed with Cleveland in May of 2003. Then I was waived due to an ankle injury in September. I ended up with Chicago on the practice squad in November and sent to NFL Europe in February 2004. I played for the Berlin Thunder, which is the team that won this year's World Bowl.

What do I bring to the Bears? I think that I fit the profile that coach Smith has set out for his players this year. I am pretty fast and I hit hard. My weight is good for my size. I go for the quarterback and usually am pretty successful. In college, I had 9 sacks as a senior year. I want to do a lot more than that for the Bears.

Playing in Berlin was an invaluable experience. NFL teams are composed of players from all over the league. You meet some very interesting guys. The coaches are excellent. They have the time to work with us and develop our skills.

I think that I have come back here much more confident and able to do my job. We won a championship and I know what it feels like. Once you experience something like that, you want to do it again and again.

One thing I notice is the difference in the fans. In Europe they are cheering all the time, but that's mostly because there is a big sign in the stadium that says something like ‘cheer now'. So it isn't that they necessarily know what's going on, they just know they should cheer.

When we were in St. Louis I could tell immediately that those fans knew the game. It's a real high when they appreciate your play and encourage you. It is even a boost if the other team's fans boo your play because you busted up a run in backfield or did something they didn't like to their quarterback.

It's interesting to be in a battle for a roster spot. I think that I have a good chance and I am giving it everything I can. Getting sacks against the Rams was a good start. Right now, I'm working on my timing and my quickness. The speed of the professional game is very comfortable to me after being in Europe but I know I can be even better.

The one thing that I am being careful about is my body. You want everything to be in the best possible condition. Seeing all the injuries that the team has right now, it sort of brings that home. I think that all of the NFL Europe players are conscious of that. We've just completed a full season and now we are starting all over on another one. It can get hard to keep up the pace but in many respects, I think it makes us just that much tougher.

I'm feeling fine and looking forward to that first game in Soldier Field. It doesn't get any better than that. I learned a lot in Canada and I learned just as much in Berlin. I feel that experience will serve me well with the Bears. All I want is the chance to show what I can do.


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